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How Companies Identify Talent with Melissa Marshall & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Banfield Pet Hospital Human Resources Hiring Strategies

Walk your talk. It’s important to move past corporate rhetoric and move into action — an action that is visible internally and externally.

As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Melissa Marshall.

Melissa Marshall is VP of People & Organization (P&O) at Banfield Pet Hospital, the largest general veterinary practice in the U.S. Before Banfield, Melissa worked at other Mars organizations, including Wrigley Canada and Mars Pet Nutrition.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been passionate about people and have found so much fulfillment from my 15+ years in human resources. I started my career at Banfield in the field, working directly with our field and regional leadership. Veterinary professionals are such a compassionate group of people, and I was inspired every day working side by side with them. In 2017, I transitioned to a leadership role at Banfield’s corporate office and last December I became the vice president of People & Organization (P&O). In this role, I am able to take the insights I gained working in the field to my new role where I focus on recruitment and increasing doctor retention and engagement across Banfield’s more than 1,000 hospitals.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?

I have been with Banfield in a variety of roles over the past 5 years and have seen so much growth, especially in how we support our people. As our culture has evolved and strengthened, we have prioritized listening at scale. As leaders, it is our job to unlock possibilities by asking the right questions. During two-way dialogues with our associates, we often find that the answers to some of our biggest questions are right in front of us — we just need to listen. You would be amazed at the innovative ideas that surface in a 15-minute huddle!

Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?

Our talent acquisition team has found the following have helped us identify and build relationships with the best talent:

  • Build relationships early. Students are passionate about exploring their future career opportunities. We work with universities to build campus relationships. We also offer internships and externships for those students who want to get firsthand experience at our practice. As a national practice, it’s important to me that local veterinary professionals are the ones visiting these campuses so that students get to know what it is really like to work at a Banfield in their community.
  • Employees are the best brand ambassadors. Nothing is more powerful than our associates sharing their positive experience with potential recruits. We encourage our veterinary professionals to talk about what it is really like to work for Banfield. You can see this for yourself on Instagram by searching #BanfieldLife. There is a lot of pride in our practice, and we encourage our associates to show it!
  • Be transparent and open. Potential recruits want to hear why they should work for you. This is especially true for Millennials and Gen Zs, which make up 75% of our workforce at Banfield. We use social media outlets like Instagram and LinkedIn to connect with them. As I mentioned, our own associates use #BanfieldLife on Instagram, and as a senior leadership team, we also post to share our perspectives, allowing a glimpse into our personal lives.
  • Stay connected with former associates. I think companies often neglect to stay connected with former associates. We work so hard to build relationships with recruits and keep associates at our companies, but many of us to do not have a plan in place for continuing that relationship when an associate leaves a company. Now, more than ever, people change jobs frequently. We’ve found that by keeping lines of communication open and sharing how we’re continuing to evolve as a practice, we will often see people come back. These former associates can be great re-hires.
  • Find talent in unexpected places. There is a great deal of unlocked potential in similar but different (or analogous) industries. For example, in veterinary medicine, there are skills that can be transferred from human medicine. If we’re looking for a non-credentialed role, a person with experience in human medicine could be a great fit. Not only do they have the skills needed, but they might also bring with them new ways of doing things which could improve our ways of working.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

Here are some of the ways we’ve been able to cut through the noise and spark a conversation with potential recruits:

  • Identify barriers in your industry — and solve for them. Every industry has problems. At Banfield, we believe we have a responsibility to do our part to help address these problems, both for our associates and the larger society. As I mentioned earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six veterinarians considers suicide, and one in 10 suffers from severe psychological distress. This is a devastating statistic and one that we knew we had to do our part to help address. In response, we announced “ASK — Assess, Support, Know” — a first-of-its-kind suicide prevention training designed specifically for veterinary professionals to help them recognize and address emotional distress and suicidal thoughts. Since this is an industry-wide issue, we shared this training with the entire profession as a free resource (available at ASKAssessSupportKnow.com). We didn’t expect this program to impact recruitment, but we found that potential recruits were inspired to reach out when they saw our passion for improving the industry.
  • Walk your talk. It’s important to move past corporate rhetoric and move into action — an action that is visible internally and externally. For example, we’ve been working to elevate the roles of veterinary technicians, key members of our hospital teams. We advocated for this change publicly, but we knew we also needed to make improvements within our own practice. As a response, we improved benefits and salaries and launched credentialed veterinary technician appointments nationally, enabling our credentialed technicians to utilize their skillsets — in partnership with a veterinarian — creating increased availability and accessibility for our clients, and helping even more pets to get the care they deserve. Our goal is to hire over 1,000+ veterinary technicians in the coming years.
  • Create community. We look for ways to connect the passions of our associates with those outside of our practice. For example, we have partnerships with local associations, national associations, and groups such as Pride Veterinary Medical Community. These organizations provide opportunities for our associates to get involved in the industry outside of our practice. They provide our own associates with leadership and learning opportunities and also build grassroots, authentic relationships within our broader industry.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The social justice movement that is currently unfolding at a national level has made it clear to me that now, more than ever, we need to come together to be here for our people. Inclusion and diversity are a cornerstone of health & wellbeing at Banfield. We have over 19,000 associates, and we want all of them to feel that they can be their authentic selves at work and at home.

One way we’re working to facilitate honest, productive discussions around racial injustice and ways we can activate is through ongoing, practice-wide virtual forums. Led by Banfield’s POWER Diversity Resource Group — an associate-led group dedicated to elevating Black veterinary professionals within our organization and across the broader industry — the goal of these discussions is to listen at scale so we understand how to support our associates, and drive sustainable action in our hospitals and in the communities we serve.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” I apply this quote to all areas of my life, including my family, community, and career. It aligns with my core values and what I feel is my responsibility to society.

We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

Bozoma Saint John has always been an inspiration for me. She is such a strong leader who uses her platform to advocate for women, equity, inclusion, and diversity. For me, she embodies what it means to bring your authentic self to everything you do.

This has been so informative. Thank you so much for sharing so many fantastic insights with us!

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